Monday, March 31, 2008

Unsatisfying Resolutions

I saw two movies over the weekend: Atonement and No Country for Old Men. These two films have both been critically acclaimed and both have been nominated for Oscars. Both are adaptations from novels. The endings to both movies, however, were unsatisfying.

**Warning: Spoiler Alert**

No Country for Old Men is a graphic (i.e. bloody) film that begins when a man named Llewelyn comes upon the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong. With dead bodies everywhere, he eventually finds a satchel full of cash and decides to keep it for himself. He eventually gets caught up between the parties who want the cash -- drug dealers, drug buyers, hit men and bounty hunters. It's not going to end well for Llewelyn.

Since this film has been heavily praised, I must be missing something because although it is well made, I didn't find anything redeeming about the film. For one thing, I had a hard time trying to sympathize with any of the characters (except for maybe Llewelyn's wife, who suffers the consequences of her husband's actions). For instance, the hitman named Churghi is on Llewelyn's trail and he kills anybody who gets in his way. He rationalizes his killings with philosophical reasoning. Of course, since he's a psychopath, none of it makes any sense. The sheriff, meanwhile, seem to be a defeated man -- he seems to accept the fact that he can't make a difference in society as suggested by his Uncle Ellis. Then there's Llewelyn, who refuses to give up the cash even though he has put his family at great risk.

As a side note, it's interesting to think that advocates of the legalization of drugs might say these characters wouldn't have to go through all this trouble if drugs were legal. They would say that with legalization, there wouldn't be any drug lords. But then again, this movie (and other films involving the drug trade like Traffic, Blow, American Gangster and Scarface) would never have been made, right? ;)

The second film I saw was Atonement. In this movie are three main characters -- Briony, Cecilia (Briony's sister) and Robbie (Cecilia's love-interest). The complication begins when Briony accuses Robbie of raping Lola, their cousin. Robbie ends up spending 3 years in jail and is given a choice to stay in prison or enlisting in the British military. He joins the military and is sent of to war in France during WWII. Both Robbie and Cecilia eventually die as a result of the war: he from injuries in France while she indirectly from the bombings of London.

Briony goes on to have a succesful career as a novelist. In her later years, she is being interviewed and she finally admits that she realized later that it was not Robbie who raped Lola. Since she ruined their lives, she decides that she must make an atonement. How? By writing a semi-autobiographical novel where she gives the characters of Robbie and Cecilia a happy ending (i.e. Robbie and Cecilia end up together), of course. Now the question for me is: is that really an atonement? Writing a novel and giving the characters a happy ending? I figure that if you've ruined two people's lives, the least you should do is fess up to the authorities earlier in life, not when you're already ready to retire and suffering from a degenerative brain disease. Or at least, fess up to the families of Cecilia and Robbie so Robbie can at least have his name cleared. Then again, I guess the movie would sound weird if they called it Not An Atonement. ;)

Disclaimer: I realize I'm going against the tide by not heaping praise on these two films, but my review is just an opinion. If you disagree with me, feel free to do so, but don't go 300 on me like some commenters. ;)

Technorati tags: Atonement, No Country For Old Men